History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: St Michael's church, built by prisoners
The first French prisoners came here in 1809, and they were quickly joined by Americans taken in the War of 1812. At its height the prison held over 6000 inmates. After both conflicts ended the prison was unused until 1850, when it was put to use as a convict gaol and later, a prison farm. In 1917 it was converted into a work centre for conscientious objectors, then in 1920 it was put back into service as a prison.
A rather peculiar annual event called the 'Dartmoor Jailbreak' encourages members of the public to 'break out' of gaol and travel as far as possible in 4 days, to raise money for charity.
St Michael's ChurchThis striking church stands in an exposed position near Dartmoor Prison. It was designed by Daniel Alexander and used French prisoners as a labour force to begin the church, and prisoners captured in the War of 1812 conflict with America to complete the building. It is the only church in England to be built by prisoners of war. For another look at a different sort of church built by POWs see our article on the Italian Chapel in Orkney.
The church closed in 1816 after the prison ceased to hold POWs, but it reopened in 1831 to serve the local community.he east window holds a stained glass design commemorating American prisoners who worked on the building, and many prisoners are buried in the churchyard. The church was made redundant in 1995 but it is still used for occasional services. It is cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust.
Princetown began as a planned settlement, built in the late 18th century to house workers at Sir Thomas Tyrwhitt's quarrying operations at nearby Tor Royal. After the closure of the prison in 1816 the town faced collapse, but the coming of the railway in 1823 brought increased prosperity and an influx of workers for the granite quarries.
The Two Moors Way long distance trail leads through Princetown, joining Dartmoor with Exmoor to the north, making the town a good centre for walking.
Address: Princetown, Devon, England
Attraction Type: Town
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
We've 'tagged' this attraction information to help you find related historic attractions and learn more about major time periods mentioned.
Find other attractions tagged with:
18th century (Time Period) -
NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Princetown, St Michael's Church - 0.4 miles (Historic Church)
Merrivale Prehistoric Site - 1.8 miles (Prehistoric Site)
Drizzlecombe Stone Rows - 4.5 miles (Prehistoric Site)
Garden House - 6.7 miles (Garden)
Buckland Abbey - 7.5 miles (Historic House)
Lydford Gorge - 8 miles (Countryside)
Lydford Castle - 8 miles (Castle)
Brentor Church - 8.1 miles (Historic Church)
Nearest Accommodation to Princetown:
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